NATO SUMMIT: NATO leaders have wrapped up their Bucharest summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a day after the alliance backed U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense system in central Europe. NATO Secretary General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer said today's talks were held in a positive spirit, but reported no breakthroughs. Mr. Putin later said he is pleased with the discussions, but noted certain problems, such as Russia's objections to the U.S anti-missile defense plans and continued NATO expansion. Earlier today, NATO leaders met with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko to discuss the outlook alliance membership.
ZIMBABWE ELECTION: The United States says it is troubled by reports that foreign journalists have been arrested in Zimbabwe, where tensions are rising over the uncertain results of last week's presidential elections. U.S. national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe was commenting (in Bucharest) on witness reports that at least five journalists were detained in Harare Thursday, including a "New York Times" correspondent (2002 Pulitzer Prize winner Barry Bearak). Officials say they are being investigated for practicing journalism without proper accreditation.
IRAQ: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered his forces to stop raids against suspected Shi'ite militants. Mr. Maliki issued the statement today, saying the aim was to allow time for those wanting to surrender their weapons. He did not say how long the freeze will last. A day earlier, Mr. Maliki said he intends to follow his army's crackdown on Shi'ite militants in southern Iraq with action against extremist gunmen in Baghdad and other parts of the country. The southern city of Basra was the scene of recent deadly clashes between Iraqi security forces and Shi'ite militias loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
US - IRAQ: U.S. officials say a new U.S. intelligence report on Iraq shows that conditions there are improving and that progress is being made toward healing political rifts. U.S. media cited government officials as saying the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq provides a more upbeat analysis of conditions than the last assessment made in August. However, the officials said the classified document did not include the recent deadly fighting between Iraqi forces and Shi'ite militias. The report, a collaboration by 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, has been released to top administration staffers as well as members of the U.S. Congress.
TIBET - CHINA: A top Chinese official in Tibet says more than one thousand people will face prosecution before May first, when foreign tourists will be permitted to return to the Tibetan capital. The official Tibet Commerce newspaper quotes deputy chief of the Lhasa Communist Party Wang Xiangming as saying 800 people have been arrested since March 14th, when rare anti-government protests in Tibet turned violent. Wang said another 280 people have turned themselves in to take advantage of a police offer of leniency. The numbers released today are nearly double those reported by state media earlier in the week.
AFGHANISTAN - VIOLENCE: An Afghan security official says a suicide bomber has killed three police officers and a civilian in the southern part of the country. Helmand province's police chief Mohammad Hussein Andiwal said the bomber blew himself up today near a police vehicle in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah. Three people were wounded. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Helmand has been the site of some of the fiercest fighting between coalition forces and insurgents. It is also the biggest opium producing region in the world.
KING - ANNIVERSARY: Today marks the 40th anniversary of the assasination of U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. King was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4th, 1968. Republican presidential candidate John McCain and Democratic contender Hillary Clinton will be in Memphis today to mark the anniversary. On Thursday, House and Senate leaders, along with other top U.S. lawmakers, participated in a ceremony on Capitol Hill to honor King's legacy King led a non-violent campaign against segregation and discrimination against African Americans during the 1950's and 1960's.
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